Some car-buying decisions have gotten more difficult in recent years as the distinctions between similar models from competing brands have become ever finer. When it comes to full-size luxury crossover SUVs, however, the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class still stands out among its rivals.
If the full-size GLS-Class looks vaguely familiar, it's because it's a slightly reworked version of the former GL-Class with the letter S tacked on as an homage to the brand's flagship S-Class sedan. In addition to relatively minor styling tweaks outside, this top-of-the-line seven-passenger crossover gets a few more substantive changes, including a bump in horsepower for all except the GLS 450's turbo V6 and a new standard nine-speed automatic transmission (save for the high-performance AMG GLS 63). Inside you'll find a new touchpad-controlled infotainment system with a large central display and available Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.
Driving the GLS-Class is a pleasure, though it's worth noting that the diesel-powered GLS 350d feels a tad sluggish, a downside many buyers will be willing to overlook for its impressive fuel economy. You'll have no such issues with the fire-breathing AMG GLS 63, a high-performance model that sits at the top of the GLS range.
Ultimately, the ranks of comparable three-row luxury crossovers are rather thin, giving the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class an all too rare chance to truly set itself apart from the competition.
Current Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class
Like other Mercedes-Benz models, the difference between trim levels starts with what's under the hood. In this case, the entry-level models would be the diesel-powered GLS 350d and the gasoline-fueled GLS 450, both of which feature similar lists of standard equipment.
Topping those lists are 19-inch alloy wheels, a self-leveling air suspension, automatic headlights, LED running lights and taillights, automatic wipers, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, a sunroof, roof rails, rear privacy glass, a power liftgate and Mercedes' Mbrace Connect remote vehicle access, which uses a smartphone app that includes remote start.
Interior high points include dual-zone automatic climate control, premium vinyl upholstery, heated front seats, a 10-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), driver-seat memory settings, a leather-wrapped power-adjustable steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and genuine wood trim. Electronics highlights include the COMAND infotainment interface (with both a control knob and a touchpad), an 8-inch central display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, and a sound system that features HD radio and dual USB ports.
The Premium options package for these two models adds keyless entry and ignition, a power front passenger seat with memory settings, lighted doorsills and multicolor ambient lighting, a navigation system with voice controls and real-time traffic info, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration and satellite radio.
The optional Lighting package bundles adaptive LED headlights and automatic high beams. The Parking Assist package adds front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel-parking system and a 360-degree surround-view camera system. Also available is a three-zone automatic climate control system, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, multicontour front seats that add a massaging feature and adjustable side bolsters and shoulder supports, and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with a CD/DVD player and an SD card reader.
The GLS 550 comes with all of the above standard, adding a V8 engine, 21-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, sporty exterior styling cues, soft-close doors and upgraded interior trim (including wood steering-wheel inserts). The optional Night package throws in 21-inch black wheels and gloss-black exterior accents.
Optional items on all three of the above models (GLS 350d, GLS 450, GLS 550) include a panoramic sunroof, Designo diamond-quilted leather upholstery and heated second-row seats.
The GLS 450 and GLS 550 can also be equipped with an Off-Road package that includes an upgraded multimode terrain selector, a dual-range transfer case and front underbody protection; on the GLS 450, it also adds the GLS 550's standard adaptive dampers.
The high-performance AMG GLS 63 starts with most of the above, adding an even more powerful V8, a sport exhaust, exclusive 21-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, adaptive stabilizer bars (the Active Curve System in Mercedes-speak), AMG-specific styling elements inside and out, enhanced bolstering for the front seats, upgraded leather upholstery and a flat-bottomed sport steering wheel.
All four GL models can also be outfitted with a trailer hitch, a heated steering wheel, power-sliding second-row seats for third-row access, rear side window sunshades, a rear entertainment system, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
Speaking of those four engines, the GLS 350d uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 engine rated at 255 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. The GLS 450 gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged gasoline V6 that puts out 362 hp and 369 lb-ft. The GLS 550's 4.6-liter V8 produces 449 hp and 516 lb-ft. All three of these models come standard with all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The high-performance AMG GLS 63 is upgraded with a 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out an astonishing 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. It comes with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic.
Properly equipped, all GLS-Class models can tow a maximum of 7,500 pounds.
In Edmunds testing, the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class crossover SUV delivered generous helpings of performance (the diesel-powered GLS 350d being the lone exception), moving out with an authority that may seem surprising for a vehicle this size. This is especially true for the V8-powered GLS 550's effortless acceleration. Needless to say the AMG GLS 63 takes things to the next level, though we question whether it's a level many buyers will need to explore. In any case, the suspensions are well calibrated to this intended purpose, delivering confident handling and a ride quality that absorbs assorted road irregularities with aplomb.
Used Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class Models
While the GL-Class on which it's based has been around for a decade, the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class was just introduced for the 2017 model year.
Read the most recent 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class page.